The Usefulness of Math

in

A few nights ago, at around 5 am in the morning, he realised how truly useful Math is.

As part of giving tuition, he would routinely point out how relevant to reality and how practical Math is. Take for example, trigonometry. If there's no trigonometry, how then would we be able to calculate all the lunar eclipses? Or, how about the study of probability? He's quite sure that probability is the very exercise in rationality.

Yet, despite waxing lyrical, his attempts sound even hollow to himself. Why the need to cramp mountains of info into a reluctant mind? Why the need to practice one question after another robotically?

Math is useful, never doubt it. But, there it sits, on its Greek pedestal. Lovable but not loved.

Logically, he understands the usefulness of Math. Emotionally, he can't.

One serendipitous dawn, he was awakened to the worthiness of Math.

He tossed and turned on his bed, unable to sink into a deep sleep. The restful respite did little to rejuvenate him. By 4 am, he could no longer bear it anymore.

He reluctantly left the snug embrace of the blanket, sat in front of his Math notes and started studying. By 5 am, he's so tired that sleep overtook him without him being aware.

Whoever says Math isn't useful had never suffered from insomnia.

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A Dichotomous Society

But is this what he wants for himself?

To have money?

One friend pointed out astutely that nowadays his words were peppered with finance-related jargons.

And he wasn't even consciously aware of that.

What does he want with money? For goodness sake, money isn't even real. It is an imaginary construct, one seeded from supposed necessity and watered by increasing complexity and technological advances. The world has money for it makes our lives easier; money is a common denomination for the exchange of goods and services. Yet, money loses its value all too readily.

And why does he want money?

The same reason why everyone else wants it, he supposes.

And what is that reason?

A silence.

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Going the long way

in

He was wondering why he needs to know more about differential and integral equations. The class spend hours learning how to differentiate and then spend even more hours integrating the equations back again.

Come to think of it, who needs mathematics to be happy? Maths teachers, maths majors, maths lecturers? He really couldn't think of anyone who derives intense pleasure from mathematical equations.

To be fair, who need to know the theories of Bohr, de Broglie, Planck, Rydberg and Schrodinger to be happy? He knows precious few people whose happiness is in direct proportion with the number of molecular facts they know.

He really don't expect himself to learn anything of much use in the next four years. Facts, perhaps. Yes, he'll learn many facts. But will the facts be useful? Highly unlikely, he thought.
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'Dad ask u take care. Concentrate study. Dun keep go out. Rest well drink more water. They say god bless u. Amen.'

'We are all very proud of you to go into the university. Jiayou for your studies. With love from all of us :)'

He felt a hot rush of warmth race through every fiber of his being as he read the messages. The words of encouragement came in quick succession. Before he could rationally process them, the next message came. Before he could intellectually grasp the messages' meanings, his emotions swamped him.

It was as though he had downed three shot of pure tequila and the resultant fire was coursing pleasantly through his veins. It felt as though he had swallowed a bar of Cadbury chocolate and the sweetness, ohh, it was intoxicating.

In these messages, he found his reason to study.

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Tree of Life

in

Life can be likened to the branches and trunks of trees.

Every decision to traverse a certain path will seal off other paths. It is akin to pruning. Trimming off a certain branch ensures that the pathway is closed forever. New pathways may sprout but they'll not be the same - and cannot be the same - as the previously clipped course.

Many people choose the safest path time and again. Perhaps they're faintly aware that the elected path isn't the best choice, not in the long term, but it's the path of least resistance for now.

Decisions after decisions are made. The pathways of lowest resistance are chosen each time.

Eventually, seemingly without warning, the tree of Life would be pruned into an unsightly, insipid shape. Who, then, would take responsibility for it?

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Eckhart Tolle on Now

in

Came across a few notable quotations by Eckhart Tolle. He's an acclaimed philosopher on contemporary issues - on life, lessons, love, living, leaving.

With an economy of words, he manages to distill modern dichotomy into clear, coherent food for thought.

'Nature will teach you to be still, if you don't impose on it a stream of thoughts, a very deep meeting will take place when you perceive nature in that way, without naming things.'

'When you don't cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns to your life that was lost a long time ago when humanity, instead of using thought, become possessed by thoughts. A depth return to your life. Things regain their newness, their freshness.'

Words are superfluous; words are just words. They are tools to be used, tools that attempt to capture and record ideas. Thoughts are just thoughts; they are ways to achieve happiness but aren't happiness per se.

Words and thoughts cannot be replacement for the actual experience itself. For this reason - and many others - Tolle urges us all to be attuned to the present and live in the Now.

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Perspectives in a kaleidoscope

It struck him that he has been subconsciously resisting what is.

By defying reality, he's actually at loggerheads with truth.

Attempting to grasp an eddy of water with one's bare hands is futile.

Solution: to align oneself with what is and work with that.

A simplistic answer to a confounding situation.

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Turkish carpets

in

Expectations, hopes, dreams, aspirations, desires.

Everyone has them. Everyone seeks them.

It seems as though that one can only attain one's hopes by working relentlessly towards it. Undeniably, this is true. Cause-and-effect. Effort must be invested before the fruits of success can be seen.

At some point, ironically, the converse is true too. Only by deciding to walk away and give up, can one achieve one's goals.

At some point, the only leverage that one has is the power to walk away. It's like bargaining for a Turkish carpet - the lesser one wants it, the more likely he'll get it. (Particularly true w.r.t. unquantifiable human relations.)

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Symbolising Happiness

in

Happiness is a frame of mind. It is a feeling that can be easily created by certain techniques.

All it takes is to recall a past moment of happiness, to fully step into that chosen moment and feel.

To feel means to associate oneself with that memory and imagine it in the most vibrant colours, sounds and smells. To experience the joy bubbling forth and sense the starry tinkles in one's eyes. To have a genuine smile lifting the corners of the mouth without premeditation.

Happiness is a state of mind and can be created - pardon the cliche - anytime anywhere. The problem arises when people link happiness to a whole host of material wants - wealth, luxury goods, status, rank... the list runs on.

They think that happiness means having money. And so, they work harder and harder to accumulate ever-increasing wealth. Yet, they remain miserable despite the fatter checkbooks.

Happiness can be pegged not only to tangible items but also to intangible ideas and beliefs. 'I'll be happy when he listens to me.' 'Only his acceptance can bring me joy.' Such ideas, while unconsciously popular, are erroneous. How can one's happiness depend on another?

Only when one realises that happiness is a way of thinking can one achieve it at will. Happiness isn't about having an object or idea fulfilled.

No one holds the monopoly on happiness. After all, it is a frame of mind and anyone who can control his frame of mind can achieve happiness.

Monks can be happy; nuns can be happy. Presidents, vice-presidents, principals and their pupils can be happy. The poor have every right to be happy, just like the rich. You can be happy too... but are you?

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A list

in ,

'There's no point getting that string of As.'

Abilene and Perdita gasped. It was as though Adam just suggested that mother's milk is poisonous, the earth is squarish and protons carry negative charges.

The idea that paper qualifications are 2-dimensional had not gone down well with these people.

'I'd rather study for the joy of it, not to get a degree that I don't need or want to impress people that don't matter and shouldn't matter.' The resulting silence was deafening.

'I like learning but I like pointing to that string of As and be proud of them,' Perdita stated confidentially. Abilene nodded her consent. 'True, true. It's nice to have something concrete to show for your efforts.'

Grades and wellbeing, distinctions and confidence.

Was there a correlation? Can he prove, by mathematical induction, the relationship between these variables?

Adam paused. What he felt like saying would probably nip the friendship in the bud. He deliberated and said in a hesitant voice, as though he's afraid of offending. 'If you need to derive pride from grades, then you must have really low self-confidence.'

Perdita and Abilene looked at him with outright curiosity, somewhat stunned.

It would seem that all three of them have lessons that they must learn. And we can all hope that they, in good time, learn these lessons.

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Snatches of what could be

in

He trails behind his friends.

His friends are all intelligent, young, able people - adults who are about to embark on differing routes in life. Accountants, businessmen, dentists. The future holds starry promises of brilliance and prominence. Each wants life to be smooth-sailing with abundant riches and happiness thrust upon them.

He casts his vision far and wide yet all he could see was within the confines of the room.

Well-dressed people milled about in the narrow spaces. Scholars. The word - scholars - feels strange as it rolls off his tongue. Scholars, he try saying yet again. Many of them would end up as well-paid principals, permanent secretaries, education officers. In the sea of faces, he couldn't tell who.

He whispers a tuneful melody after biding farewell.

His friends - people who had shared much with him - are taking baby steps towards their ambitions, away from him. It was misleading, the idea that friends are forever. Each life runs parallel for mere phases. For their sake - and for his - he must take the steps forward alone.

When he was 17, he thought he could grow no older or mature anymore. It came as a pleasant surprise to find out that he can and will continue to learn, grow, develop with each passing year.

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Experiential learning

in

It struck him - rather hard, like a bolt from the blue - that recent entries are dull and dreary.

He has many intelligent friends but few wise ones. And one of his wise friends pointed out the fallacy in his thinking.

It's good that he's observing but he should do something with the observations. And that something shouldn't be just anything. It ought to induce positive change. Not just observing, he considered slowly, but observing and participating.

From the corner of his eye, he saw his worn notebook. A quote was scrawled carelessly across the white cover in red ink.

'The best way to experience Life is to live it.'

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Voyage de la Vie

in

The show is spectacular, absolutely breathtaking.

It is surprising to find such a world-class theatrical performance on the sterile shores of Singapore. la Vie - the affectionate term for this show by the Resorts staff - is sheer magic.

Wondrous. Spellbinding.

Act 1 Scene 1 unfolds with aplomb. Set in the immaculate office, performers move jerkily, puppet-like, across the stage. The metaphorical reference to the stifling office atmosphere and the suppressed cries for freedom does not escape observation.

Most people - if they allow themselves to - can identify with the stress of living in such concrete jungles.

Change then come in a little red box. A Puck-like contortionist delights with his gymnastics. The ways he folds, unfolds, twists, contorts, distorts and bends have the audience sitting at the very edges of their seats, mesmerised and gasping collectively.

And then, the first lesson for the man-boy begins. It is to be a lesson on strength, courage and resilience. The cast silences the audience with their dexterity and grace. But, the silence is not complete or lasting. Every now and then, the awestruck silence would be broken by light ripples of applause or gasps.

Each movement seems to be part of a song, mellifluous and organic. Each practised action is enviably graceful. Sheer muscular poetry. Each action is like a dab of colour - individually, they're pretty; collectively, they form an inspiring tapestry of Life and Living. The graceful tilting of hands, the undulating bodies are snapshots that, when stringed together, tell lessons that the man-boy must learn.

The lessons are loosely related and culminate in an uplifting crescendo. There is one lesson on friendship, another on love. One on conflict and the last on harmony. Each lesson is a subtle reminder to live with awareness and learn daily.

One may choose to accept the theater piece at face value. There's nothing wrong about this. The work is still astonishing. But to truly appreciate, each act must be interpreted with the storyline in mind. It is so rich in symbolism and lyricism, so many layers after layers of delicious imagery that one hardly knows where to begin describing.

The work eventually come together, almost magically, to remind us that 'it is not about the destination'.

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